photo: Dakota Hudson (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
By default, Saturday’s Day 1 of the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch will be less eventful than the year before. The opening day of the 2017 edition of the annual charity event was scuttled due to an ice storm.
All of the normal Saturday sessions were canceled last time and not rescheduled. This time, they should all be held as normal, including popular presentations like John Mozeliak’s always-informative main tent event and farm director Gary LaRocque’s breakout session.
Autograph sessions with 12 current Cardinals are scheduled on Saturday, with the only two unable to come being Jedd Gyorko and Ryan Sherriff. Here are the 12: Carson Kelly, Alex Reyes, John Brebbia, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, Matt Bowman, Luke Voit, Rowan Wick, Austin Gomber, Carlos Martinez, Sam Tuivailala and Kolten Wong.
Typically after they sign, the players are brought to the media area for a question and answer session with us.
Following are selected interviews held during the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 13, 2018. I summarize them and follow with the full audio for those who want to listen to the full content.
This article will be updated throughout the day as more sessions are held.
Dakota Hudson (5:16)
The right-hander did not think about any trade speculation that could have included him. He has found the use of slow-motion video to be “huge” in his preparation. His sinker (two-seam fastball) is key, but he has a four-pitch mix. His focus has been on his change up with his curve ball “coming around”. His pitch movement helps him get away with mistakes.
John Mozeliak (22:12)
You will want to listen to this one, as it is packed with information. Preference is to develop “internal assets” as they can have them for six or seven years.
Closer heading into season is Luke Gregerson, but tried to build flexibility into the pen. Memphis-St. Louis corridor will be more active than in past. Could take younger, dynamic arms and see who emerges. Alex Reyes is an option. New coaches will have finger on potential changes.
Reyes is especially fit, no physical setbacks this off-season. May 1 is still date. Do not want to push based on need.
Chris Carpenter will be a mentor at St. Louis and at full-season clubs.
Pace of market being slow as many teams explore trades “to exhaustion”. Some teams are “step function better” in their division so next tier looking trades and internally. NL Central is not an example of this. No team head and shoulders above others. Feel they accomplished what they hoped to address.
Jedd Gyorko will be given every opportunity at third base. Can move players around to keep all fresh. When asked about moving positions, Dexter Fowler told him he prefers right field. Marcell Ozuna is “most compatible” with left. Randal Grichuk plays all three.
For under 25-year old players such as Harrison Bader, Mo advocates them playing every day.
The roster orientation of 13 pitchers and 12 position players is “locked” and “in my blood”. It is “hard to see that trend going away”. However, with gaps in schedule and minor league opening day a week later, they could get by with 12 pitchers the first week.
Said focus is about competing now and getting to October. Sees “a lot of horsepower” at Double-A and Triple-A.
With Ozuna, the Cards now have a hitter that makes other teams nervous. Had all good hitters before, none great. Ozuna will pull others with him.
Miles Mikolas signing might look “curious” to those who do not do what they do (evaluate players). Given pipeline, two years makes sense.
He sees Tyler Lyons as a reliever based on his strikeout rate. Could be used late in game.
Thinks both Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks will make a positive impact with St. Louis this year. Electric arms. Both now are understanding pitching. Two future bullpen names. Having them affects other 2018 decisions (assumed to mean trades or other relief signings). Other teams ask about them in trade. Did not have one clear answer on best time to make move from starting to relief, but cited Hicks’ use in 2017 as example. Easy for him to imagine Hicks as a closer.
I also attended Mo’s main tent session, moderated by Al Hrabosky. Here a few additional points he made in that session.
Molina is thinking about his legacy. Wants to play every day. Challenge to keep Carson Kelly motivated and engaged. All four final teams in 2017 had flexible lineups, but admits managers like “pushbutton clubs”.
On downturn in fundamentals, they are moving players faster through minors, Also missing Oquendo “was real”.
Asked if Adam Wainwright would get a new two-year contract if he had a good 2018, Mo hedged. He said everyone eventually gets off the train, but most have to be told when it is their time. However, he hopes they can keep Adam around.
Have advanced data for players if they want it. Offer buffet of choices to optimize performance.
It made “no sense” to acquire Tyler O’Neill with so many outfielders but given his diverse set of skills, it became an easy decision.
On Lance Lynn, he cannot comment on free agents, but reiterated they believe they have the needed innings covered.
Would like to see Matt Carpenter have better season, but still had .850 OPS last year. Should be better with lineup defined and arrival of Ozuna.
Dexter Fowler had a “very good year”. Had to adjust quickly. Move to right will help the club defensively.
He is on MLB Rules Committee. “Pace of game is a legitimate concern.” Trying to increase interest of game with younger demographic. Looking for ways to get more balls in play.
Gregerson has had 30 save season in his career. Will get first opportunity to close. Gives manager flexibility. Still kicking tires.
He is still against the designated hitter in National League, but can sense a greater momentum. Current approach gives American League advantage in World Series. Not happening soon.
Thinks interleague play could lead to Albert Pujols and Angels coming to St. Louis in 2019.
John Brebbia (13:16)
The reliever is a real character. The first section of the long and winding interview is a discussion about his trademark beard, which he shaves off at the end of each season.
Achieving his MLB goal is “unexplainable”. Trying to explain what it meant to him does not do justice.
Late game outs are “louder”. Have seen many different bullpen management approaches and many have been successful.
He trusts Molina to know the hitters so he focuses on helping the catcher help him. He wants to make right pitch even if location is off.
For 2018, competing for spot on team. Baseball is revolving door. Many good players in the system.
Luke Voit (9:45)
The local hero became engaged and bought a house over the off-season. Also followed his brother, who was a senior at Army.
First goal is to make the 2018, whether starter or bench. Wants to get better on defense, get his timing down. Does not want to go back to Memphis.
Hitting coach John Mabry having been a bench guy helped him, mental and video side, and not to get down with struggles.
He has been working in the outfield this off-season at Maryville indoor facility. Getting hips engaged, working on routes, wind, hooks and slices. First played OF at Double-A, takes balls out there in batting practice. Was emergency catcher last year, also.
Knows he “can play up here,” but also said he “wants to play”. Reaching St. Louis makes him want to work harder.
Carlos Martinez (with translator) (7:16)
A very fit and trim Martinez said he jumped up and down when the Ozuna trade was made. He is a good friend. He and Molina had joked with him at the All-Star Game about becoming a Cardinal.
Alex Reyes is in great shape. Could become the next Pedro Martinez and be better than him.
Wants to throw more than 200 innings again but have a better September to help the team get in the playoffs. Other goal is to stay healthy.
He said that time this winter with Albert Pujols and Pedro Martinez helped him in his mental preparation. They feel he has Cy Young quality skills but he has to master the mental side.
Rowan Wick (8:06)
The reliever’s visited his college roommate in Israel this off-season. Also traveled to Sydney, Australia to see relatives.
His biggest change is that he can now throw his cutter for strikes. Also has curve. Still working on fastball command.
Did not express goals other than to go to camp and do the best he can. Likes closing best, which he did for Springfield in 2017. He has been throwing since mid-December.
Kolten Wong (14:12)
Needed the mindset of going home to spend the off-season in Hawaii. Yoga, Pilates, rock climbing three times a week. Wants to continue off-season regimen in regular season. May have taken too many swings before, contributing to elbow problems.
2017 taught him he could have success at this level. Took over job last year and would not give it back. No longer taking the game personally.
Excited about Oquendo’s return. A Dad figure on the baseball field. “He can take my game to another level.” Admitted he was not a good defender coming out of college, but Oquendo helped.
Does not care where he is in the lineup. Took at bats against left-handed pitching personally. Wanted to crush them to show he can be two-way player. Changed his approach to only hitting balls he can drive.
Reyes “is a beast”. “Will be a special player.”
Going down to Florida on Monday to work with Oquendo. DeJong lives down there and is around as well.
Speaking of which…
While I was out of the media area for Mozeliak’s main tent session and the minor league presentation by Gary LaRocque (coming for TCN members), I missed a number of other Saturday player interviews. This is an unfortunate but necessary tradeoff, since one person can only be in one place at a time.
However, Brian Stull of St. Louis Baseball Weekly came through for me, generously sharing the audio of the following six interviews.
Austin Gomber (4:36)
Carson Kelly and Alex Reyes (13:26)
Miles Mikolas (11:20)
Matt Bowman (11:55)
Sam Tuivailala (6:25)
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